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A Way Imogene's Curse Might Have Struck

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Eliza sat by the window, working on embroidering the cuffs of the dress for her sister's daughter - the child was due soon and she wanted this to be finished in time. She reached out with her mage sense, checking on Anarys. She was still resting peacefully, the curtain drawn over the open window, allowing her to smell the flowers blooming in the garden. Relieved Eliza turned back to the work, allowing herself this respite from worry - her research was going well, but she needed a rest and to look at it fresh to determine the next test to try.

Suddenly, the feeling of magic hit her - harder than she had ever felt it. All her senses dimmed. The view of the stitches faded - she blinked, suddenly in darkness. She felt the sunlight burning her skin. She stumbled to her feet, reaching out, managed to catch the edge of the curtain. She yanked it shut - then breathed out in relief as the pain receded. She leaned against the wall, trying to recover. After a minute the room stopped spinning. She reached out with both hands to the left of the window - there should be a chair just within her reach. Eventually she found it. Keeping one hand on the back of the chair, she walked across to it and sat down.

She breathed in and out slowly, forcing herself to calm down and think clearly. It must have been a magical attack of some kind. She gingerly reached out and checked on her skin - there were bad burns up and down her arms, as well as on her face - all the areas which had been exposed to the sunlight. She reached out to Anarys.

<Are you well?>

<I don't know! I am by the window - it hurts where I was under the covers!>

Eliza could hear the shakiness in her mental voice.

<It is the opposite for me - I've got burns along my arms from the sunlight!>

<What can we do?>

<Try calling for help! See if you can get the midwife to come; she must check that your daughter is unhurt.>

Eliza dropped the contact. Thinking about what Anarys had said, she reached out with her magic and reinforced the curtains, in order to block out all of the light. It felt as if a weight had been lifted from her. She sank back in the chair in confusion and terror. She cried softly, trying not to project anything, but terrified of the darkness that surrounded her. She could not understand it - neither of them had enemies powerful, or motivated, enough to do this; they were not important in any way.

<Eliza!> She felt the panic in Anarys mental voice and jumped to her feet, wishing that she could go to her sister's help, but too shaken from the pain and lack of sight.

<This has apparently happened all over the town. The midwife can't come. She is too busy dealing with burns. Many people were outside when it hit, at the market, and are very badly burned - or dead. She is helping to try and heal them, as most of the mages are too busy to help. Trying to find out what has happened, I suppose. She says that so many are dead because they didn't realise to get out of the light quickly enough.>

Eliza swallowed as much of her terror as she could.

<If being in light will kill, will being in the darkness kill you?>

<I hadn't thought of that.>

<Go! Light candles. Then try closing the curtains.>

Eliza broke the connection, sick with the terror of it - light, dark, childish fears turned into a nightmarish reality. She stood up slowly, and crossed the room carefully, hardly lifting her feet off the ground and reaching out for each piece of furniture. She eventually reached the sideboard. Feeling along the top she reached for the candlestick. There were fresh candles there. She reached down, knowing that the matches should be in the left hand corner of the right drawer. She drew out the holder, grazing her aching hand on the striking surface. She put it down on the side and fumbled to open the lid. Matches spilled everywhere, but she got hold of one. She identified the tip and struck it on the box. She could feel the warmth on her face, but it did not seem to be burning her. She reached out with her other hand to locate the candle, then put the match to it. She felt the warmth of the flame, as normal, but still no increased pain, nor any sight. She lit the other four candles. Standing so close to the flames felt was hurting her sensitized skin, but in a distant echo compared with the pain she was already in. She sat down in a nearby chair. At that distance there was no increased pain.

<It didn't work. I lit all the candles, but closing the curtain still caused pain.> Anarys's mental voice echoed with her terror.

Eliza felt tears well up in her eyes. She determinedly blinked them back, <We need to focus on finding a way to keep you safe when the sun goes down.>

<Yes.>

Eliza could feel all her questions and Anarys's about why and how of this curse in the back of her mind, but forced herself to focus on the current issue,

<Do you have a mage light there?>

<Yes - I think it is in here. Remember Aunt Liliyen gave me one for my daughter; she claims that babies sleep better with diffuse light around them. I think I put it in the baby drawer.>

Eliza could feel her pain as she reached into the darkness of the drawer.

<I've activated it - now I'll close the curtains.>

A slight pause, but only two breaths before she resumed,

<It hurts less than the darkness or the candles, but I'm not entirely pain free.>

Eliza reached out with her magic and examined the mage light carefully. It was fairly dim, just enough to light the room gently, as was its objective.

<Do you remember making reflectors, when we were young?>

<Yes. It was such fun - remember getting them set up to light the candles in the drawing room when mother was had guests for tea? Their faces!>

Eliza smiled at the memory. <Now, make five reflectors and direct the beams onto the mage light. I will try and adapt it to store the extra light, then emit it on demand. I think I can see how the spell works.>

Eliza kept quiet as she watched Anarys enchant and set up the reflectors. Eliza slowly picked apart the enchantment and let the sunlight flood into it. The strain of the process made her tired. After about ten minutes she dropped the spell and sank back in her chair, the connection breaking.

<Eliza! Are you hurt?>

<No. Just very tired.>

<The light seems to work. I've turned it off for now.>

<Good. I need to rest now. You should make use of the daylight to get yourself everything you need for the rest of the day and the night.>

<If this is affecting everyone, how long will it be until there is help?>

<I don't know. I need to rest. We can worry about that later.>

Eliza dropped the connection and lay down on the floor, too tired even try to find the sofa. She had still not told Anarys that she was blind. She needed to avoid stress; if she were to go into labour now... Eliza firmly cut off that thought. She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind.

***

It was much later when she woke up. Her first though was to reach out to her sister,

<Anarys?>

<It is getting dark, but the light is working. You were asleep so I let you sleep. I got myself food - there is noodle soup in the kitchen for you. I thought it made sense to leave some for you as I don't know how you'd cook in the dark. I brought up all the lights that I could find. I don't know if they will last the night.>

<Try not to worry. Just use as few lights as you can manage without pain at a time.>

<What about you?>

<I am going to find myself that  soup. Then I will see what I can do to sort out the house, to make it safe for each of us.>

<Be careful! You should try and find a way for us to talk safely in person, through a closed door would work, if we can not think of anything better. We will need our energy for other things if this continues.>

Eliza carefully opened the door. She could tell there was no strong light in the corridor by the lack of further pain. She tried to think of where all the furniture was, thankful that she didn't have to attempt stairs at this time. She closed her eyes and walked along, keeping one hand on the left hand wall - she would be able to feel the door frame when she got to the kitchen. The corridor seemed a mile long. Eventually she felt the wooden frame under her hand. She turned and felt for the doorknob. She opened the door and slowly walked over to the table. She groped for a chair and sat down for a few minutes. She considered reaching out to Anarys, but even though they were twins it still took noticeable effort.  She reached out and felt around the tabletop - nothing much, some plates, a cup and saucer, but that was it.

She slowly got to her feet and crossed to the stove; the top was warm, but not hot to the touch. There was a pan on it; she lifted the lid and smelt gingerly - noddles and vegetables cooked down in a broth. She smiled and reached out instinctively to recover a bowl. She searched on the side and found a ladle, slowly she tried to dish up her food. However, it felt as though almost as much went over the side as in her bowl.

She carried it back to the table, then retrieved a spoon and fork from the drawer. She sat down and struggled to eat the food. It was a messy business, but at least she was no longer hungry by the end. She carefully got up and crossed back to the stove. She reached out for one of the washing bowls - searching around as it appeared not to have been put back properly by the maid. She felt a stab of guilt at her annoyance, as she realised that she had no idea what had happened to her - it had been her half day. She filled the bowl from the water tank at the back of the stove. She carefully carried the water into the pantry and retrieved a towel. She used it to wash her hand and face, and clean the worst of the food off the front of her dress. She poured away the water and returned to the kitchen. She pulled across a chair and sat by the stove, allowing the warmth to dry her clothes.

As she sat there she began to try and think of plans for how to survive the next day or so. She wished that she could get paper and write a list - but she would not be able to read it, so that would not help. She drew her mind back to the issues at hand. First, darkness for her and light for Anarys: they could recharge the light, but that would take most of her magical energy if it was needed to be done every day... and magical items died with their creator... maybe with Anarys's  help they might manage it between them, but she needed not to exert herself too much. There must be a way to charge it automatically from the sun. The garden lights were like that, or had been in the past; those lights would have put away in the garden shed after their last party. She got to her feet. While it was dark she could retrieve them. She felt around in the drawers for a bag to carry the lights in. Eliza slowly walked across to the back door, reaching out instinctively to touch everything she passed. She unhooked the shed key from beside the door.

Thinking of the possibilities, she paused with her hand on the door, afraid. She drew a deep breath, turned the key in the lock and opened the door. There was no pain, she let out the breath and stepped out. She closed but did not lock the door behind her. Keeping one hand on the wall she walked around to the end of the house. Holding the key in her hand, she fumbled trying to find the lock, eventually managing fit the key and turn it. The door creaked as it opened. She stepped in and felt around. The lights were on long poles, so should not be too hard to find. She knocked into things as she searched, but eventually found the lights. She carried the four deactivated lights back into the house.She closed and locked the door, then sat back at the kitchen table, shaking from the exertion.

Examining the magic in the lights would have to wait until she had rested. Hopefully the lights Anarys had would last the night. Next: darkness for her and a easier way of communicating. Anarys was upstairs in her bedroom, which had doors opening onto the hall and the nursery. Her own room was across the hall, but the upper hall had only one window. If she could close the shutter the hall would be safe for her, but then Anarys would not be able to leave her room. She needed a system to open and close the shutter at will.

She picked up the lights and climbed the stairs, slowly and carefully. Leaning on the windowsill she reached out for the storm shutter; it was hooked back, stored until needed. Eliza fumbled with the hooks but finally got it closed. She did not put the bar across, but it stayed put. It was fairly stiff, so light winds and pushes would not open it  - so probably safe for her without the bar. She wondered how Anarys could be able to open it from her room, half way down the hall. It would have to be magic - or a long lever, but she did not have the materials or the skill to sort that out. She sat down on the floor for a moment, remembering what the shutter looked like and trying to think of an easy way for Anarys to open it by magic - a strong push would do, but she could not think of anything easier. She got to her feet, picking up the lights and walked along to her sister's door.

"Anarys," she called softly.

"Eliza!" She heard Anarys get up slowly and come closer to the door. "Are you well? Did you find the food I left you?"

She swallowed, hearing the fear in her sister's voice.

"Yes, I found and ate it. I am making progress. I've retrieved the garden lights for you and am leaving them outside the door. If you recall they recharge automatically in the sunlight."

"Yes, I remember. We'll have to see if they are bright enough on their own."

"Yes. I've also fixed the shutter in the hall. It is closed now so the hall is safe for me, but pushing it with your magic should open it without much effort, the bar is not across."

"Is it safe for you?"

"I think so."

"What are you going to do now?"

"I am going to try and make my bedroom safe for me: block the light from the window and the door to your old room. I can stay there and sleep through the day, I hope."

"You won't sleep well, it’s too scary. Anyway, you can move around by night; can you use candles to see what you are doing?"

Eliza hesitated.

"Eliza? Can you not?"

"I can't see."

"At all? O Eliza." She started crying. Eliza wished she could open the door and hug her.

"Darling Anarys - calm down. I'll manage. Think of your daughter. You much remain calm."

Eliza heard the sobbing slow and stop.

"I'll try, but I'm so afraid. I'm all alone here. I can't even touch you and I keep thinking about what could have happened to Dani."

"Courage! We will get through this and in time be able to reach out to him, but that might require too much energy until we know how much is needed to get through each cycle for both of us safely."

"I know. I wish I could touch you, even if only through a screen or something."

"Maybe I could put up a curtain over the door and enchant it to not let light through, then we could at least get tactile feedback from each other through it."

"That would be wonderful! You should rest first, then we should sort out the lights. Afterwards we can see if you have the energy left for that."

"Sounds like a good plan. I'll go and get started. Contact me if you need anything."

Eliza got to her feet slowly; she was so tired and the burns along her arms were hurting. She opened her door, crossed her room and closed the shutter - shutting out the night, then pulled the curtain across. She opened a drawer of old clothes and get out the first garments that came to hand. Very carefully, she put these across the bottoms of the doors, then collapsed into bed - too tired to even undress.

***

She awoke several hours later, feeling less tired, but not fully rested.

"Eliza."

She blinked at her sister's voice muffled by the door, wondering what was going on for a moment.

"Anarys. Anything wrong?"

"No. The lights lasted the night and I have put the garden ones out to charge. I've made breakfast; I'll leave yours here. Just give me a minute to get back to my room, then you can close the shutter and get it. We will really have to work out a better system!"

Eliza awoke fully at the words, remembering everything, her thoughts racing,

"Yes. Thinking about that - your old room opens onto the playroom we used to use and that has a door to the back stairs. Tonight I will make that safe for me; then you can use the front stairs exclusively."

"If you put a curtain over the door in there, I should be able to push things under for you, like we said."

"Good idea."

"Right, I'm going back downstairs - Lia still hasn't returned so I expect we will have to be doing without her." Anarys's tone was dry; Eliza wondered what fate she was imagining for their maid.

"Yes."

Eliza heard her steps on the stairs, then magically pulled the shutter closed, opened the door and pulled in the tray. She got to her feet, turned around and walked back across to the bed and sat down on the edge to eat. The food was simple, bread and jam, but plenty of it, and tea to drink. Afterwards, sitting there still in the darkness, she tried to force herself to think of something that she could do to stop her worries echoing around her mind. Her embroidery was downstairs, as were her notes on magical research - not that she would be able to read or work, even if she could have someone bring the notes to her.

"I really need a way to write!" she spoke aloud. She put down the tray and brushed her hands over the cover - the stitched figures there were more comforting that ever before. She sprang to her feet and hurried across the room to pick out a clean sheet from the chest at the foot of her bed, then to reach for her sewing basket. She put these down by the bed and pulled her chair away from the window, shivering at the idea of sitting so near to the sunlight. She sat down, found a needle and thread by touch, and eventually managed to thread it. She picked up the sheet, carefully laying it across the bed. She found a corner and slowly started sewing an alphabet, after each letter running her hands across the result - it would be a painfully slow way to read and write, but possible.

Eventually having finished it, she sat back and tried to decide what to do next, or what to write. She ran her hands over it again, then started embroidering a list of things to work on that night.

Sort out the curtain to cover the next room's door.

Arrange the furniture in there (including a table, chair and comfortable chair

Contact Anarys' husband

Check the back stairs for safety

Look at the lights.

Retrieve my notes and get Anarys to read to my.

She stopped. That was more than enough to try to achieve for one night. She used her magic to check on the bedroom shutter; it was still firmly closed and barred - she was safe for now. She cleared the bed, slowly undressed and lay down to sleep.

***

Eventually she woke up, feeling rested. She got up, stretched and slowly got dressed in the simplest clothes she could find.

<Anarys. What time is it?>

<Almost sunset. I was about to wake you. The midwife came to check on me. As far as she can tell my daughter and I are both healthy, although she has no idea whether this curse will affect her as well. She left some burn ointment for you. It is outside your door. There is food downstairs on the stove. I have my lights and expect, given last night, that they will last.>

<Thank you! Are you very tired?>

<Not very. Why?>

<We should try and contact Dani.>

<If you think you can manage it.> She sounded so eager, so concerned.

Eliza took a moment to overcome her jealousy. <Yes. You reach out to him - I'll strengthen you.>

She felt Anarys reach out tentatively, searching for his familiar mind.

<Dani!>

<Anarys! Darling! Are you well, and Eliza?>

<We are both surviiving! And you?>

<I am surviving, as well. I will try and get back to you tonight. I've been returning as there is no point to my business with all of this.>

<You are in the group that needs dark?>

<Yes. You are not?> Eliza could feel the despair in his voice.

<I'm not, but Eliza is.>

<You should rest. When I return we can talk.> He firmly broke the contact.

Eliza felt Anarys sink to the floor crying. She desperately wished to comfort her, but there was nothing that she could think of to say for a long time.

<At least he is alive.>

<Yes.> She seemed to calm slightly. <I should come back up stairs before it gets dark. My lights are mostly there. I must try and be calm for my daughter, his daughter - our only child.>

<You rest. I'll try and sort a curtain from your old room into the hall. Then, at least, the two of you will be able to talk and touch through it.>

<Good idea. We also have to find somewhere for him to sleep safely. The two of you will be able to share that space when you are awake.>

<It may have to be one of the attics for now. I will try and make it safe, if I have the energy.>

<Don't push yourself too far! We will manage somehow without it, but not without you.>

She swallowed at that, wishing desperately that someone would break the curse - it felt like they were so far apart.

***

It was nearly dawn, Eliza was just finished washing the dishes after her dinner - breakfast - meal, when the front door opened. She quickly dried her hands and walked out into the hall.

"Dani?"

"Who else would it be?" He sounded tired and uncertain to her ears.

"I'm here in the kitchen. Are you hungry?"

"Yes, but is there time to eat?"

"I can sort out the food and we can take it upstairs for you to eat safely. The back stairs and the left of the upstairs are safe for us. I will explain when you are eating."

She ducked back into the kitchen, and by practice more easily found bread, ham, cheese and various odds and ends. She placed these on a tray and reboiled the kettle, making a fresh pot of tea.

"I have fruit here. Should I leave it on the table, or bring it up?"

"Leave some here for Anarys and bring the rest up." She picked up the tray. "We are going up the back stairs and into the first door on the left."

She got no reply. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, I nodded."

"I couldn't see it."

"Really? I can see a little. You can not see at all?"

She wondered what that implied about this curse, but busied herself carrying the tray. She set the food down on the table in the living room upstairs. She heard him draw up a chair, then sat at the table, opposite him.

"We have replaced the door from here into the hall by a curtain. I have enchanted it to protect against light.The hall never got much natural light, but Anarys can use it safely. She can also use the rooms on the other side and downstairs."

"Is she really well?"

She could hear the fear is his voice.

"The midwife came round yesterday and checked on her. There is no current risk to her or your daughter, although she can not predict whether this curse will have effected her in any way."

"I wish she could be here with us. Will I be able to talk to her soon?"

"As soon as she wakes up," Eliza replied softly, struggling to keep the bitterness out of her voice.

"And you? It must have been very lonely for you as well."

"Yes. But I coped - I was very worried about her, and you, naturally."

"Yes." He reached out and took her hand. "At least the three of us have each other to rely on and hopefully we will survive. The two of you seem to be doing much better than a lot of the people that I have encountered on these last days. Days! Nights! How will we use language now?" he broke off, as his voice quavered.

She squeezed his hand. "We will survive; society will survive. How can it not? I will help you and together we will be able to help Anarys."

He held on to her hand for a long moment before letting go and starting eating again.

"Do you know what happened to the maid?"

"No. We were too busy to try and find out, unless Anarys learned something from the midwife and forgot to tell me. We really need to work out a system to communicate more. Can you still read?"

"Yes, but not easily. What have you been considering?"

She got to her feet and retrieved her embroidered list and handed it to him.

"Close your eyes! You should be able to tell the letters by tracing."

"Yes, I can, but it would be very slow. You need to come up with a simpler code, then each letter would be smaller and quicker for you to sew."

She nodded. "Well, that can wait. First we need to find out what is going on and how we can survive. There is very little food left in the house, except what you brought."

"I will go out tomorrow night; there are night markets springing up. I passed one on the way back. I don't like the idea of you going out alone, or leaving Anarys here alone until she has had the baby."

"Yes."

"Dani?" Anarys' voice called from behind the curtain.

He jumped to his feet and hurried over. Eliza heard the scrapping of the chair and his quick steps, easily crossing the room avoiding the furniture.

"Darling."

She heard the curtain move - presumable they were touching through it.  Eliza felt a wave of jealousy flow over her - their love was so strong, and she was so alone, with no hope now.

"I'll leave you to talk."

"No, don't go. I’ve been thinking. I want to talk to you both."

She got up and came across to sit by the curtain. Dani sat down at the opposite side. She was aware of how close they were sitting, and tried to stop her pulse racing.

"I'm listening."

"Dani, I love you so much and I don't want to lose you, but you have valid grounds to divorce me-" He stated to protest. "No, let me finish what I'm saying! I know you love me, but you also care about Eliza and the two of you are together there. I don't want her to be alone either. Love her as well, then stay here with us. We can not even touch. Let her join in to be with you."

Eliza could feel the weight of the words on her, she had not realised that Anarys understood her feelings.

"I have to think about this." she said slowly.

"So do I. It is a very unusual offer and situation. It may change back," he said and Eliza couldn't read anything into his tone.

"It may, but I doubt it. I know I'm not the most experienced with magic of us, but I've read in between what you are saying, Eliza, you don't believe that it will be returned to normal."

"No, I don't. If it had been going to fade on its own it would have done so by now; if the mages were going to find a solution, I would have expected to feel large scale attempts by now."

She felt the curtain move, and Anarys's hand on her face through the fabric.

"Please. I love both of you. I think I would go mad with jealousy if you turned to anyone else, Dani. This way we can remain here together."

"I understand. I don't want to lose you, but I fear that if I did this I would come to love Eliza as well."

"Yes, but she is my twin, I can bear to share you with her, as we must be separated."

Eliza closed her eyes and trying to think, she wondered again what Anarys though or knew of her feelings.

"Eliza, please don't say no! I know you would rather be left alone with your research, but please, for me."

She blinked at Anarys's words - she must know less that Eliza had imagined. She wished that she could tell what Dani was thinking.

"What about you? It does not seem fair to you - for you to be alone..."

"I'm not alone while you two are here, and soon I'll have my daughter. Hopefully she will stay with me. Can't we remain a family, even with this?  I'll leave the two of you to talk. I need to go down and get myself food. Is there anything you need?"

"No. Thank you."

They sat still and in silence, listening to her descend the stairs.

"Eliza? I will not force this on you in any way. I... am willing to do this to ease her mind."

"So am I," she said, feeling the idea turning over her stomach in anticipation. "I think between the three of us we will survive this."

He reached out and took her hand.

"You are so like her, and yet different. How can this be anything, or nothing?"

She tried to understand his words.

"I... She is my twin, so it is not surprising that we are alike."

"I'm too tired to think clearly about this now. I should rest. Where am I to sleep?"

"For now I've closed the shutters in the attics, but that would not be very comfortable for you. Or you could sleep in here, and I'll return to my room." She gestured towards the door.

"That doesn't seem very proper. But then none of this is! I'll sleep here, if you don't object?"

"Certainly, wait for me to get you you bedding."

She let go of his hand and got to her feet. It took moments to retrieve sheets and blankets, and make up the bed by feel. She was sure that it was not too neat, but a day ago she would have thought it impossible.

"There."

"Thank you."

She turned, surprised that he was so close behind her.

"Sleep well."

He brushed his hand across her face, "Sleep well, yourself."

She hurried out of the room and sank down on her bed in confusion. She lifted her hand to her face and traced the path his hand had taken. No one had touched her like that before! She could feel his lust and love? care? in his touch - it was too hard to place his feelings. She breathed slowly, trying to sort everything out - she wanted this - she didn't want this. She didn't want to hurt Anarys, but she wanted to be loved by Dani, like her. No one, apart from Anarys, ever focused even this much care on her. She felt tears in her eyes. She was the studious one, her schooling and research set her apart, not interesting or powerful enough for most mages to be interested in her, but too much of a mage for many others. She remembered when Dani had started to come courting for Anarys. She could still feel her jealousy and pain, knowing that she would lose her twin - someone else would be closest to her - and jealous of her having a lover.

She slowly undressed, feeling very aware of the closed door - all that was between her and Dani. She sat on the edge of the bet and considered walking over, opening and joining him. Instead she lay back on her bed, and drifted off to sleep.

***

She awoke to the sound of voices from the next room, grabbing a robe she crossed to the door, and listened.

"Eliza is in her room."

"Why not there with you? Are you going to leave? Please don't leave me!"

"Anarys, I love you. I will not leave, but me and Eliza have to decide what we are doing. I am not going to force her into anything and neither should you. Do you know if she would even want a lover? It is not fair to her to force her into it."

She heard Anarys turn, walk away and slam her door - ever so familiar a sound from countless arguments. Eliza decided it was not worth pretending that she had not been woken by that. She slowly washed and dressed, trying to take care to look her best - in everyday clothes, but her hair combed and braided back tidily. She turned towards the mirror, longing to be able to check her appearance. She hesitated, thinking about over the conversation that she had overheard. It sounded like he was willing; she felt a thrill through her at the thought.

She walked over to the door and opened it - the room was quiet. Reaching out with her mage sense she could feel Dani in the kitchen below. She slowly walked down, finding herself becoming accustomed to the stairs; she knew how many steps it was to the turn, without needing to reach out for the wall ahead.

"Good morning - night - something," she said as she entered the kitchen.

"Greetings. I have cooked for us. Here, sit down at the table, and eat."

She sat down and he placed a dish of porridge in front of her. She reached for a spoon and started to eat slowly.

"How is Anarys?"

"Worried. In a bad mood, I'm afraid. Hopefully she will calm down before the morning."

"Still thinking that you are going to leave?"

"Yes." He sat down, she could tell that he was opposite her from the scrape of the chair. "What do you think of her suggestion?"

"I am willing to go along with it, but only if you are. It is a choice for both of us."

"I am also willing to do this. You are an amazing person, who I already love in some ways; this will just make it more. I love that you care so much for her, I just don't want you to give up your future to make her happy."

"I'm not. After all, is there any reason why I can't continue with what I can of my research while going along with this?"

"Very true," He hesitated. "But for this to be practical, you must also find me physically attractive."

She blushed, and looked down at her food.

"I do. I have since you were first courting my sister."

He was silent - she was tempted to reach out and try to see what he was thinking, but she held back.

"I never knew, nor I think did Anarys. You are good at keeping your secrets."

They had finished eating. He got to his feet, walked around and took her hand.

"Come then, let us do this." He pulled her to her feet and kissed her gently. She leaned into his touch and put her other arm around him as she kissed back. After a minute or so he broke the kiss, and untwining her arm led her upstairs to bed.

***

Eliza was later credited as the inventor of punch system of writing for Darkborn - although her name did not live long. Anarys continued to live with them until her death, in defiance of the emerging traditions